Friday, October 17, 2014

Court finds IAC based on cross-examination of witness, but no prejudice

West v. Farris, 2014 WL 4977587 (10/7/14) (Okl.) (unpub'd) - In this ยง 2254 case, the 10th finds it to be deficient performance when counsel crossed a state witness about his motivation to fabricate testimony to obtain a reduced sentence without knowing this would open the door to the admission of pre-snitching, consistent statements by the witness. But it was not unreasonable for the state courts to find the deficiency non-prejudicial because counsel was able to recall the witness and cross him about inconsistencies in his testimony that counsel had avoided for fear of opening the door. Also, the 10th was fine with the state courts' finding counsel's decision to be reasonably strategic in the following circumstances: the district attorney's staff told an alibi witness who showed up pursuant to a defense subpoena that she didn't have to worry about the subpoena because only the prosecution could lock her up; she disappeared; counsel couldn't find her in the courthouse and their investigator didn't find her at home; counsel eventually decided to proceed without her because the jury already heard the petitioner's alibi statement. Who needs corroboration of a defendant's alibi after all? If you can't believe the defendant, who can you believe?